Nature reserves offer a great variety of flora and fauna, important ecosystems for their bio-diversity and the preservation of genetic resources. Botanical gardens, including arboretums and flower beds, reproduce different environments: this is the Tuscan Appenino, expanding from the Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco-Emiliano (National Park), throughout the mountains near Pistoia to the Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi (The Casentino Forest National Park).
Mountain ridge: a treasure of shapes and unique people
The Alpi Apuane, characterized by their rough aspect, typical of mountains which are made of hard, compact stone, such as marble, are fascinating not only for their harsh itineraries but also for the karst phenomena which created beautiful caves like the Antro del Corchia. Opposed to this, one finds the gentle alternation of mountain tops and valleys of the Tuscan Appennino, where amazing landscapes may be seen and experienced in every season, especially near the catchment areas of the region: from the Valle del Magra in Lunigiana to the Serchio in Garfagnana, from the Val di Sieve in Mugello to the Valle dell’Arno in Casentino, up to the Valtiberina, where the Tiber River flows. It is a land to discover in every season: autumn mist and colours, winter frost, spring blossoming and summer sunsets create unforgettably breath-taking landscapes, with suggestive paths to walk along.
The Great Apennines Excursion: through colours and tastes of the mountain
Along an excursion itinerary, 375 kilometres in length, opened by Reinhold Messner and part of the Italian Path and the European Path E1, it is possible to move, by bicycle or horse-riding in some parts, but mostly on foot, to discover in a sustainable way, a pure and vivid culture, evidence of the life of small communities on the territory, and their ancient culinary and wine traditions, the bases of which are the “chestnut culture” and the “testo culture”, the latter being a cast iron pan used to cook on an open fire, typical of the cuisine of northern Tuscany. The warranties DOP and IGP are evidence of the extraordinary richness of high quality agricultural and food products and with which many products, like honey, chestnut flour and spelt, are countersigned.
In the Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco-Emiliano one can find secular chestnut trees, old charcoal piles, lakes recalling ancient legends, parish churches and waterfalls. Small villages in the Mountains near Pistoia (Abetone, San Marcello e Cutigliano) offer the chance to do sports, have fun, discover local culture and relax, and live immersed in nature, not far from cultural cities like Florence, Pistoia, Prato, and Lucca.
The ruins of ancient walls and fortresses, Roman paths and ethnographic museums of Peasant Culture recall the history of the Alto Mugello area. Places of retreat, hospices, and hermitages are immersed in the silence of ancient woods in the Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, from where superior quality wood was taken to build monuments such as the Duomo of Florence and the ships of Pisa’s navy.
On the steps of San Francesco
In Casentino there are also places guarding the origins and the essence of Christian spirituality personified by San Francesco, who lived his mystic experience here. The Eremo di Camaldoli and the Santuario della Verna are ideal stops to discover the deepness of meditation and the sense of community with nature.
The valley’s landscape has been modelled by man throughout the years, and has often been painted by masters like Piero della Francesca, whose works may be seen in San Sepolcro, Monterchi and Arezzo. This area gives us the chance to explore a hidden side of Tuscany, which gave inspiration to great artists like Michelangelo and Guido d’Arezzo and to talented artisans who made world-famous local products like the cloth of Casentino and the jewels of the Gold District of Arezzo.